Scotland’s prisons have seen a significant rise in remand prisoners due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with young people particularly affected, according to a new report.

Research by penal reform group Howard League Scotland shows that remand prisoners accounted for 16.1% of those imprisoned shortly before the pandemic in February 2020, but now stands at a “scandalous” 23.9%.

For prisoners aged 16 to 20, 42.6% of them are on remand.

Howard League Scotland is now calling for an end to what they say is an “unacceptably high” use of remand, with a week-long campaign on social media highlighting the issue using the hashtag #demandlessremand.

The organisation stated: “Despite an initial reduction in both the convicted and untried prison population at the start of the pandemic, a new report by Howard League Scotland shows that there has been a significant rise in the number of people held on remand in Scotland, particularly amongst young people.

“Recent data from March 2021 shows that a significant proportion of the remand population were accused of non-violent offences. Many of them could therefore have awaited trial in non-custodial settings such as community-based bail accommodation.

“Crucially, 57% of people held on remand do not go on to be given a prison sentence. They are either found not guilty or receive a community sentence, underlining that remand is grossly over-used in Scotland.”


The report - The Scandal of Remand in Scotland - also found that the average duration of time spent on remand has increased, with stays of more than 120 days rising from 6% of people on remand in 2009/10 to 17% in 2019/20.

A backlog of cases due to periods of lockdown and court closures means this may have increased even further over the last year.

This has led to claims by The Law Society of Scotland’s Legal Aid Committee that there is now a perverse incentive to plead guilty in order to spend less time in jail.

Howard League Scotland also claims that prisoners’ experience on remand can be “significantly poorer” than that of those serving sentences.

“Whilst the stigma of imprisonment doesn’t differentiate between those convicted or on remand, the experience of prison for those remanded can be significantly poorer, “ its statement added. “With more time spent in cells and fewer opportunities for work or education.

“During lockdown, this is most certainly the equivalent of solitary confinement as defined as torture by the United Nations.

“The uncertainty associated with being held on remand also has serious effects in terms of employment and housing.

“It can have huge financial repercussions, whereby those released from remand receive no financial support or compensation and may have to restart benefit claims with no access to funds in the interim period.”

The report recommends that more should be done to ensure the availability and awareness of alternatives to remand including supervised and supported bail, electronic monitoring and community-based bail accommodation.

It also suggests that the grounds for bail refusal be re-assessed and that the court is made fully aware of an accused’s personal circumstances if it is refused.

Howard League Scotland also want to see structured activities introduced in prison for those on remand.

The #demandlessremand campaign will see the organisation team up with The Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research and others “to highlight the harmful rates of remand, to show solidarity with people affected by it, and to call for the end of the unacceptably high use of remand in Scotland”.